No Snow? No Problem
Ruwandi Perera describes the Sri Lankan way to enjoy the ‘sea-sun’ of joy
It begins with a sliver of excitement around the end of October, which builds up to bubbling elation through November and when December comes around… BAM! Christmas hits you like a ton of baubles! We’re not referring to Christmas decor, campaigns and discounts – we’re talking about the spirit of Christmas that envelops Sri Lankans and makes us grin from ear to ear as we celebrate the most awaited season of all.
Sri Lanka probably celebrated its first Christmas sometime around 1505 with the arrival of the Portuguese and Christianity. Five hundred years on, we’ve built our own special Christmas culture – regardless of religion, which fills this tiny island with joyful traditions and nostalgic customs that make this season one of the most memorable on the local calendar.
So rejoice! ‘Tis the season to be jolly because (baby) whether it’s cold outside or not – when it comes to Sri Lankans, the joy of Christmas warms our hearts like a good swig of homemade thambili wine.
BOOZY BAKES For some, Christmas planning happens months ahead with the preparation of Christmas cake – Sri Lankan style. Sultanas, raisins, cherries, pumpkin preserve, ginger, cashew nuts and peels are fermented with a good gulp of alcohol for months before finally being baked! And there is no Christmas without this calorie – (I mean happiness) – filled delight!
LOVE BITES Although it’s enjoyed throughout the year, the Sri Lankan love cake is a staple at Christmas. Moist and crunchy, sweet and rich, it is romance in a mouthful. It’s probably the best cake you’ll ever taste, and the kind that (according to Sri Lankan aunties) will win you the heart of any man, all year round.
LIQUID GOLD Alcohol enjoys its fair share at Sri Lankan parties and Christmas parties are no exception. However, the seasonal liquor cabinet grows a bit sweeter with the range of homemade Sri Lankan wines. King coconut, beetroot, ginger, lovi fruit, pineapple and even raisins are brewed with sugar and spices to make some of the island’s best libations.
SHOPPING SPREES Sri Lankan hospitality goes to even greater heights during this season of giving. Gift giving is a much loved tradition among family, friends and coworkers, meaning that there is quite a lot of shopping that takes place. Whether you’re a shopaholic or not, this is part and parcel of the local Christmas experience, and no one is excluded.
UNENDING PARTIES Say bye-bye to your weekends and, when it comes closer to the date, your weekday evenings too because Christmas time is when the Sri Lankan party spirit overflows like the alcohol that’s served at them. Family gatherings, office parties, and even trips and holidays with friends are the norm, and you better be ready to keep up!
GENEROUS GIVERS Sri Lankans are known for their generosity. So since Christmas is the season of giving, charitable donations of gifts to less privileged children and meals to the less fortunate become part of the celebrations. Charity in kindness, companionship and conversations are also practised as we try to spread the joy to as many as we can.